WICHITA, KS – Heading into the first of two games against the Tulsa Oilers this weekend, the Wichita Thunder — sitting ten points out of the playoffs at the start of play Friday — had a huge opportunity to get back into the race for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Wichita’s newest offensive additions, Christian Isackson and Kale Kerbashian, made their debuts at INTRUST Bank Arena. Meanwhile, the Oilers were without tough guy Mathieu Gagnon and goaltender Kevin Carr, each serving suspensions for their role in last Saturday’s end-of-game brawl with the Rapid City Rush. One would think that the loss of Carr would seem to level the playing field for the Thunder, as an unproven Matt Grogan got the start for the Oilers. However, the Thunder were not able to capitalize on the opportunity presented to them. The same combination of getting off to poor starts and lack of offense reared its ugly head once again.
Early on, the Thunder started out sluggishly, only putting three shots on Grogan in the first period. Oilers Captain Nathan Lutz opened the scoring as he ripped a slapshot into the upper corner past goaltender David Shantz to give Tulsa a 1-0 lead.
Wichita seemed to find their legs and adjust to what Tulsa was doing in the second period, as the Thunder tilted the ice in their favor for much of the period, outshooting the Oilers 10-9 in the middle stanza. A hard hit by Brady Ramsay on team captain Ian Lowe — playing in his 300th professional game — was quickly answered by Christian Isackson, who fought for the second time this season; his last coming on opening night against Utah when he fought twice in that game. Ramsay would get the extra two minutes from the altercation and soon after, Landon Oslanski put a loose puck past Grogan to tied the game at 1 on the power play.
Both teams would have chances in the third — including power play opportunities — but neither side allowed much defensively. So, for the fourth straight meeting, Wichita and Tulsa would head to overtime.
Wichita dominated the overtime period, outshooting the Oilers 4-0 and carrying most of the play. Grogan held the fort and the five-minute extra session expired without a winner.
“In the overtime, Kerbashian and Isackson were making good plays together. Both of them have a ton of offensive upside and we expect big things out of them,” said Thunder head coach Kevin McClelland.
In the shootout, Andy Huff, Kale Kerbashian and Ian Lowe were unsuccessful against Grogan. Ramsay beat Shantz at the bottom of round one, which held up as the game-winner.
“We just gotta make sure we keep getting points,” said McClelland. “If we’re gonna do anything we probably gotta leapfrog over them (Tulsa). But if they are getting two and we’re getting one every night, it’s not gonna happen. We just gotta keep pushing and make sure we get them, but every point right now is vital obviously.”
Wichita’s point-streak is now at a season-high three games.
The Thunder travel to the BOK Center to complete the weekend home-and-home tonight at 7:05 pm.
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